The Maple And Oak Diaries’ travel guides are a bit different from your average travel guide. As I love anything that is handcrafted, locally designed or homespun, I thought it would be a great idea to focus on even those aspects of my travels. It might be helpful for my fellow handmade fanatics to get a few tips about what to do in other places than home.
The last weekend of June was a long weekend, so Guillaume and I decided to spend it in San Francisco, California. It started out great! San Francisco is very supportive of its handmade community and they offer a variety of locally made souvenirs in the tourist information already, I was blown away.
We started our first day with the typical touristy things. A walk through Chinatown was right at the beginning of our list. Yes, it is a very cheesy and cliché thing to do but you do what you have to do. Even though it was very busy, crowded and little bit overwhelming, I loved it. We were able to have a little peak into a charming fortune cookie factory!. You were required to pay 0.50$ or purchase a bag of cookies if you wanted to take a photo. Of course we bought a bag of cookies – they even had chocolate flavoured ones! Now we just have to have a party and all our guests will know what awaits them in their future.
The weather was perfect, so we walked and walked and walked. I was very anxious to get to the ocean, as I grew up as a beach bum and now have to live about 2000 km away from it I just wanted to dip my feet into the salty goodness and you never know if it will still be there if you just wait a little too long, you know?!? Just before we got there, I could see and smell it already, we passed the loveliest little gallery called Art Attack SF. They not only have the cutest space but also the coolest artists. Have a look at my favourite ones: Turtle Wayne and Rohner Art!
And then we finally made it to the ocean! I would always suggest to stay more towards the East side of Pier 39 and closer to the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, as it gets really crowded right on Pier 39.
Our second day started with a surprise: it was the San Francisco Pride Parade! A lot of my friends belong to the LGBT community, so it was an absolute must for me to support such a fantastic event. If you’re going to SF around the end of June, don’t miss it. So many colourful people, so beautiful!
After a lovely vegan lunch at Gracias Madre, we decided to stroll through the Mission district. Mission Street itself felt a bit sketchy to us but on Valencia Street I felt like I was in heaven. So many pretty little boutiques, cafés and restaurants! And all of that amongst pastel coloured Victorian-Edwardian style buildings, murals in side streets and happy people on the sidewalks.
One of my favourite stores was a place called Gravel&Gold, the door looks like a saloon, they sell wonderful locally made pottery, books, home decor and hand printed fabric by the meter. (Unfortunately I only had a little suitcase…)
As we walked on we found Chrome Industries. Their bombproof sneakers and bags are both designed in San Francisco; while the bags are made in the US, the shoes are handmade in Thailand by local craftspeople and close to the rubber trees, which keeps the impact on the environment low. Guillaume fell in love with a pair of black and red shoes and had own them. After dragging him into too many cute stores that sell the most adorable handcrafted stationary, soaps and women clothes, he definitely deserved them. But just have a look at the brilliant display in Belljar – floral wall paper, a taxidermy deer and locally made soaps in a vintage bathtub, who wouldn’t drag their husbands in there?
The next stop was the Haight Ashbury. As you might guess, I’m a hippie at heart and needed to see the area where Janis, Jimi and all those great musicians lived their colourful (and too short) lives. Honestly, at first it was a bit disappointing. Very trashy, touristy and run down but then I discovered hidden little gems like Merch where I found a magic unicorn salt mix (it seriously is magic and turns all food into yummy!) on the lower Haight street or Mystery Mister a wonderful sweet little vintage boutique. You just have to keep your eyes open and then you’ll discover the beauty even in this area!
We had dinner at West of Pecos back in the mission district. You can enjoy some great cocktails and delicious fish tacos while looking at seriously big snake skins on the wall, perfectly creepy!
On our last day we rented a car and drove through Marin County along the pacific coast towards the wonderful wine region in the Sonoma Valley. It was such a lovely day, dazzling views of the Golden Gate bridge in the morning, a charming lunch (Clam Chowder) and Salt Water Taffy followed by sun tanning in Bodega Bay (I tried to swim in the ocean, but, oh boy, is it ever cold!), wine tasting in the afternoon and locally brewed beer at the Russian River Brewery in Santa Rosa in the evening. I was only able to take one bottle of wine home with me but I can really recommend Harvest Moon Winery. I chose the “RandyZin” wine with a hilarious label designed by the owner – you can spot a UFO there, just like he did once in real life!
There’s so much more to do in San Francisco and we will be back for sure. I hope some of my suggestions were helpful for your trip!
With love from the Maple And Oak Diaries,